The Making of Yamato III, Part 1

Yamato III poster distributed by
Japan TV, 9.5″ x 20″

Though it started out as the most ambitious installment of the entire saga, the Space Battleship Yamato III TV series got comparatively little attention in terms of actual production. Scattered magazine coverage and the Roman Album were the only sources that looked behind the scenes during the original production years. This information vacuum was finally filled in 2001 when the series came to DVD in Japan and was accompanied by a diligently-researched companion booklet authored by first-generation Yamato viewer Hideaki Ito.

Therefore, we tip our hat to Mr. Ito and his assistants, and present their work here in English for the first time.

From Be Forever Yamato to the third TV series

In the afterglow of the big hit movie Be Forever Yamato, Academy Productions changed its name to Tokyo Animation and announced plans to broadcast Space Battleship Yamato III, a new 52-episode TV series on the Yomiuri network, an affiliate of the nationwide Nippon Television network.

In October 1980 its broadcast coincided with three other high-profile anime programs on Yomiuri: a new Mighty Atom (directed by Yamato alumnus Noboru Ishiguro), a new Tetsujin 28, and Tomorrow’s Joe 2. Along with the new Yamato, it gave the network four series with deep legacies, and they all debuted within a two-week period; Atom on Wednesday October 1, Tetsujin on Friday October 3, Yamato III on Saturday October 11, and Joe 2 on Monday October 13. They were cross-promoted, but unfortunately there was no targeted advertising push as there had been with Yamato 2, and no features in mainstream TV magazines.

One interesting exception took place on a local level in Shizuoka. Shizuoka Kenmin TV had aired Yamato 2 in 1978, but Shizuoka Dai-ichi TV aired Yamato III in 1980, and gave away specially-printed Yamato cels (shown above).

Yomiuri TV got offers from seven stations for Yamato III, and on September 25 (19 days before the broadcast debut) their Thursday Special featured a program called Space Battleship Yamato: All the Love and Adventure. It presented scenes from the past and teasers for Yamato III. The expectation was that the ratings for the new series would surpass Yamato 2‘s impressive average of 22.9%.

But before that expectation could even be formulated, many people and concepts had to move into place.

A newspaper ad published in the morning edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun on Saturday, October 11, 1980. At the left it indicates that Yamato III would be broadcast Saturday at 7pm. A program called Surprising New Japanese Record would follow at 7:30.
Below: a 2-sided pencil board [shitajiki] promoting all of Yomiuri’s new fall anime programs.

Stage 1

Academy becomes Tokyo Animation

Dispersion of the Yamato 2 staff

1979-1980 was a turbulent time for the staff, both new and old. From the end of Yamato 2 (spring 1979) through The New Voyage (summer 1979) to Yamato III (fall 1980), this year and a half was a golden age for Academy Studio and also a period of change. This was particularly true from the fall of 1979 to the following spring when three TV series were produced simultaneously. Many previous staff members left to be replaced by new ones, and the production system was greatly reorganized as well.

Oka Studio had been the main production force for Yamato 2 and was a major factor in the staff change; members of Arts Pro Studio who had transferred temporarily to Oka left the Academy sphere one after another. By the fall of 1979, the only Yamato 2 staff members left were three production coordinators, five production assistants, and two assistant directors. Despite this, Academy was in a period of expansion and had a lot of personnel holes to fill in order to manage an increasing workload. Industry veterans were needed to strengthen the organization and it also became necessary to supplement the staff with new faces to back them up.

Building up the staff for three new productions

In early 1979, Academy invited Tatsuo Shibayama, who was a production supervisor on Wansa-kun (1973) and the first Yamato movie (1977), to rejoin the fold. He was appointed head of the production department, and brought with him two colleagues from his former studio: Akira Kurohka and Norihisa Ozawa. All three had worked together at Tsuchida Productions on a baseball anime called Dokaben (Nippon Animation, 1976-1979).

Two other individuals who became indispensable to Academy in the latter half of 1979 were Takashi Iijima and Hiroshi Sasagawa.

Takashi Iijima had started his career at Toei in 1958 as a production assistant on Legend of the White Snake (1958), Japan’s first color anime film. He worked his way up to the planning department, where he helped launch Cyborg 009 (1968) and Magical Witch Sally (1966), then moved on to produce such 1970s megahits as Combattler V (1976) and Voltes V (1977). His path first crossed Yamato‘s when Toei became the animation house for Farewell to Yamato in 1978, and he transferred to the production unit. His first job at Academy wasn’t Yamato, but instead the planning for Space Carrier Blue Noah. By this time, the latest Toei super robot anime shows had been regularly subcontracted to Sunrise Studio for animation, but Iijima was able to land one as a sort of gift for Academy, Space Emperor God Sigma (which just happened to feature Kodai’s voice actor, Kei Tomiyama, as the lead character).

Incidentally, Iijima was also able to bring a true Yamato veteran back to the fold, Producer Yoshihiro Nozaki (shown at right). He had worked alongside Yoshinobu Nishizaki at Mushi Productions in the early 70s, and helped him to develop the first Yamato series in 1973-74 (read about his contribution here), after which he drifted over to Sunrise. Upon returning to Academy at Iijima’s invitation, Nozaki’s first project would be Blue Noah, and then he was miraculously fated to meet Yamato again.

Hiroshi Sasagawa had joined Tatsunoko Productions in 1963. His 16-year tenure there as a director included such titles as Hakushon Daimao (1969-70), Inakappe Taisho (1970-72), Casshan (1973-74), and the Time Bokan series. Academy coveted his talent and acquired the rights to the children’s literary classic The Blue Bird (written by Maurice Maeterlinck in 1908) for him to direct. In response to this show of enthusiasm, he left his long-standing position at Tatsunoko to join Academy in September 1979.

In addition to their new employer, Iijima, Nosaki, and Sasagawa also shared some history; all three had been mentored by Yoshikazu Tochihara, a senior producer at Tatsunoko who had made it possible for all three to become valued industry veterans.

Academy’s three new programs started in quick succession; Blue Noah in October 1979, Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird in January 1980, and God Sigma in March 1980. Production of Be Forever Yamato overlapped all of them, which made Academy a crucible of activity. Off in one corner of this energetic environment, the planning for Yamato III got quietly underway.

The status change to Tokyo Animation

On July 10, 1980, the name Academy Production Ltd. changed to Tokyo Animation Ltd. Its capital tripled from 3 million yen to 9 million yen on September 12. The roster of company officers changed, too. Koji Yukawa (formerly of Academy) was named CEO/President, Takashi Iijima became CEO/Producer, and the three new board members were Tatsuo Shibayama, Hiroshi Sasagawa, and Shozo Suto.

This broke away from the closely associated image of Yamato = Academy, but it was a fresh start for a production company with a broad range of projects. Blue Noah and Blue Bird both wrapped by the fall, and the staff shifted over to devote their full attention to Yamato III. Contrary to such a high pedigree, there would be a hard fight for TV ratings, and as a result it became a series that would represent the company at the peak of its quality.

(original text for this section by Masahiro Haraguchi)

Academy Production/Tokyo Animation Production Record

1978/9/1 Office established in Nerima ward, Tokyo

1978/10/14 ~ 79/4/7 TV Series: Yamato 2 (Yomiuri TV)

1979/7/31 Telefeature: The New Voyage (Fuji TV)

1979/10/6 TV special: Yamato II Compilation Film (Nippon TV)

1979/10/13 TV special: Space Carrier Blue Noah Episode 1 (Yomiuri)

1979/10/20 ~ 80/3/30 TV Series: Space Carrier Blue Noah (Yomiuri)

1980/1/9 ~ 7/9 TV Series: Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird (Fuji)

1980/3/19 ~ 81/3/25
TV Series: Space Emperor God Sigma (Subcontract, 2ch)

1980/8/2 ~ 9/26 Feature film: Be Forever Yamato (theatrical release)

(Name changed to Tokyo Animation)

1980/10/11 ~ 81/4/4 TV Series: Yamato III (Yomiuri TV)

1981/3/4 ~ 82/2/24 TV Series: King of Beasts Golion (Subcontract, 12ch)

Other changes could be tracked through the bi-monthly Space Battleship Yamato fan club magazine. Office Academy Ltd. appeared on the 18th issue (August 1980). It changed to Nishizaki Music Publishing on issue 19 (October 1980) and would change again to West Cape Corporation on issue 22 (April 1981).

Stage 2: Yamato III‘s Original 52-Episode Draft

Development of Yamato III began immediately after development of Be Forever Yamato. The plan was turned over to Eiichi Yamamoto, who was a key participant in the development of Series 1. (He wrote the first planning book, which can be read in full here.) He was appointed as Yamato III‘s Series Director in December 1979. Pre-production informally began in February 1980 when he worked out the story with another veteran Series 1 writer, Aritsune Toyota.

A 34-page Yamato III plan book was created to pitch the series to sponsors and ad agencies affiliated with Yomiuri TV and the Nippon TV network. It would have been passed around in April or May 1980, when new programs for the fall were being considered. The production plan was established in this book, and mecha design for the Cosmo Hound and the Galman/Gamilas mecha started in June.

Although the standard at the time was to broadcast 50 episodes of a given program in one year, the proposal was for 52, broken up into six major story stages. Within each of these stages were shorter arcs of two or three episodes. For example, in the initial story structure, the first stage (6 episodes) was titled “Beginning.” Within that stage, the arc for episodes 1-3 was called “Yamato Launch” and the arc for episodes 4-6 was called “Space, breaking waves.” The broadcast form of episodes 1-6 followed this format quite closely. Together, all six stages would add up to a full year of episodes, and it’s interesting to imagine what they would have been like.

Various production documents: (1) Cover of the screenplay for Be Forever, completed March 30, 1980 under the working title Yamato III. The title was changed at the end of April. (2) Cover of the Earth mecha design book for Be Forever, with the title written as Space Battleship Yamato Part III. The continued use of this title caused many mixups. (3) Planning book cover with the title “New Program Plan Book TV Animation Space Battleship Yamato III [Tentative Title].” (4) Credits page from the planning book, which included an art director who left the production in June. Studio Mate was indicated as the mecha design house.
It was proposed that six animation units would be needed.

Not all the concepts were set in stone yet, as per the following examples:

In the original sample story for Episode 1, three enemy missiles fly in from space. One collides with the tourist ship and is destroyed; the other two plunge into the sun.

The new nation of Dessler was called the Goa Empire. Prime Minister Bemlin was indicated as the leader of the Bolar Federation. And that’s not all–the original plan was to add another faction to the mix for a 3-way conflict. This third force was to be the United States of Zeni, lead by President Gorman. If one wants to engage in historical connections, they could be said to parallel Germany, Russia, and America. In the end, Goa and Zeni were basically combined (out of storytelling necessity) into the Galman/Gamilas Empire.

Captain Ram’s homeworld was Planet Dagon, and the commander of the Goa Empire’s 18th Eastern Armored Corps was named General Gudon. His senior officer was Admiral Doenitz. Many of Yamato‘s new crewmembers didn’t have their final names yet, Domon was the one to fall in love with Princess Ruda (who had lost her memory), and Takeshi Ageha’s father Jirou would attempt a takeover of Yamato in the middle of the story.

Dessler lent his power to control the sun, using a “Helium Light Gun” to counteract the sun’s runaway fusion, but failed to stop it. Tomono Yamagami, the pioneer rescued from Barnard’s Star gave birth on board Yamato. A new character named Saruta joined the crew from emigration headquarters, and was an antogonist to Kodai.

Read about more unused story concepts here.

On the left, Kodai’s color design model from Be Forever by
animation director Kazuhiko Udagawa. On the right is his
color design model for
Yamato III by Kenzo Koizumi.

Stage 3: The Production and Animation Staff of Yamato III

New participants, the directing and animation staff, the work rotation, and the action of Mr. Yoshinori Kanada.

Work on the first episode started about the same time as Be Forever Yamato with Kazunori Tanahashi as the director and Tatsuo Shibayama in charge of production, Kazuo Yokoyama coordinating the writing, and Yasuhito Yamaki in charge of design work. Most of Academy’s in-house staff, such as production coordinator Kenji Kawasaki, was focused on the home stretch of Be Forever and so very few were able to contribute.

Production coordinator Toshiyuki Morii was the only one available, and since Takeshi Shirato (of Tiger Pro) had finished his work on the movie, so he took charge of storyboarding. Shirato was extremely valuable to the series, since he had been a major participant since Series 1 and was the director of The New Voyage.

The animation directors in charge of layout were Shinya Takahashi, Yukiyoshi Hane, and Yoshinori Kanada.

Shinya Takahashi‘s animation career went back to the 60s on titles such as Rainbow Soldier Robin and Cyborg 009. He specialized in the softer touch of children’s anime, and had in fact worked on Yamato‘s fiercest competitor, Heidi of the Alps with famed director Hayao Miyazaki. He also designed Sasha for Be Forever. After Yamato III, he would go on to design characters and direct animation on Final Yamato.

Yoshiyuki Hane (shown below, left) had a long history with Office Academy that began with Triton of the Sea and continued with Blue Noah, The Blue Bird, and Be Forever. He also worked on Heidi of the Alps, and later contributed to Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Yoshinori Kanada (shown at far right) was a true anime superstar with a long track record of action-packed opening titles and truly progressive stylistic choices. He had been a mainstay on Yamato titles since Farewell to Yamato and would play a major role in Final Yamato. Read our tribute to him here.

The plan was to outsource most of the animation to the staff currently finishing up their work on Be Forever, which already put them in much better shape than either of the two previous Yamato TV series at this stage. When the film wrapped in July, Toshiyuki Morii was needed to help out in the camera department, and temporarily transferred to the Tanihara Photography Studio.

An army of assistants and coordinators assembled to help configure and manage the rotation of artists, and the work situation following Episode 2 was no more severe than the industry norm–a big change from Series 1 and 2, which were pretty much on constant emergency status.

Unification of the Animation

The characteristic of Yamato III‘s production system was for animators to supervise their own layouts and for directors to check their work. Storyboarding was chiefly handled by Takeshi Shirato (15 episodes) and Hiroshi Sasagawa (7 episodes). On the other hand, the animators were given the initiative to unify the overall design through their own sense of quality control. But it cannot be denied that the patterns and personality of each animator lead to inconsistencies.

Chief Animation Director Kenzo Koizumi took charge of his own episodes as the supervisor of each. His responsibility was to oversee a huge number of episodes: 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 16, 18, 21 and 25. This is evidence of the severe schedule, and also a result of animators managing themselves with great respect for each others’ styles.

Incidentally, Kazunori Tanahashi and Shigeo Noshi were the only two who served as directors without also working as animators. Both were Yamato veterans whose work went back to Series 1. This made the job of their production assistants that much more important, since they had to coordinate additional animators.

Production rotation resembled a rose

Except for Studio Live (presided over by director Toyoo Ashida) and Greenbox (run by Exec Producer Mitsuo Sato & animation director Kazuhiko Udagawa), the rotation of small studios and freelance animators basically resembled the complex, multi-limbed shape of a rose. This was partially compensated for by Takeshi Shirato taking the lead on episodes 8, 13, 19, and 23, and his studio Tiger Pro doing animation for episodes 19, 23, and 24.

Animation checking, the process of reviewing the timing for the camera department, was supervised by Yutaka Arai, who had been in residence with the company since Blue Noah.

Additional episodes were animated by Studio Live and Greenbox.

Studio Live subcontracted episodes 3, 7, and 14. Lead by Toyoo Ashida, each member of the group took charge of their own layouts, which give those three episodes their distinctive look. Animator Hiroshi Watanabe‘s work stood out in episode 14 when he developed and designed the effects for the Galman Dimensional Submarines (shown below) and animated most of the mecha scenes in the second half. He was assisted by fellow animator Katsuhiko Nishijima, who would go on to helm Project A-ko and much more. After that, Watanabe did some more animation on his own for Episode 19.

Greenbox studio worked on episodes 5, 10, 11, 15, 20, 23, and 24. The principal layout artists were Kazuhiko Udagawa, Nobuyoshi Hoshikawa, and Yoshiaki Matsuda. As with Studio Live, they were self-directed.

Kazuhiko Udagawa had previously worked on Yamato 2 as a staff member in Anime Room and was now a freelancer-in-residence at Greenbox. He also directed animation on Be Forever and would do so again on Final Yamato. Nobuyoshi Hoshikawa and Yoshiaki Matsuda had joined Greenbox after the breakup of Anime Room. Udagawa also contributed to episodes 16 and 17.

Yoshinori Kanada left Studio Z at the time of Yamato 2 and joined a freelance group named Studio No. 1. Throughout the history of the Yamato saga, his sharp, stylized action sequences were the most proficient. For Yamato III, he contributed to episodes 1, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 22, and 25. His highlight in Episode 25 was the firing of the black hole cannon.

Kanada’s battle scenes attracted attention in Farewell and Be Forever, and he created more distinctive action for Series 3. This included the tragic death of the cruise ship passengers in Episode 1 and the attack of Dagon’s advanced fighters in Episode 10.

Above left: In Episode 11, directed by Kazuhiko Udagawa, the tractor beam from Dagon’s flagship was a unique example of Kanada action. Above right: The Dessler flashback from Episode 16, almost entirely animated by Kanada, featured an old-style Gamilas torpedo bomber, which delighted longtime fans.

Other episodes were mostly done by secondary teams from Tiger Pro (Tokyo Douga) and Colony (a studio lead by Masaru Umehara, formerly a producer at Anime Room).

Still other animators had their own connections. Yukiyoshi Hane, who had done character design for Blue Noah, did layout for episodes 9, 12, 16, and 21. Shinya Takahashi, the designer of Sasha from Be Forever, helped to supervise episodes 1, 17, and 22. He also did layout for episodes 4, 11, 22, and 25. Yuki Kinoshita did layout for episodes 18 and 20, and created the important death scene of Ageha in Episode 25, while presiding over his own studio, Anime Torotoro.

Shiro Murata was a graduate of a famous studio called Children’s Corner, who went on to a successful career in book illustration. By this time he had set up his own studio to mentor other artists, and he did layout for episodes 13, 18, and 19.

Tadashi Shirakawa was an animator on Be Forever Yamato at Toei, and did some freelance layout on episodes 2, 6, 9, 12, 17, and 22.

Last but not least was Kaoru Izumiguchi, a veteran of Series 1 with a specialty in mecha animation who mixed freely with various groups to contribute layout to episodes 2, 6, 12, and 18.

(original text for this section by Masahiro Haraguchi)

Click here to continue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *